Spain suggests tracking pandemic differently, to limit retail price of COVID antigen tests

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MADRID, Jan 10 (Reuters) – The Spanish government is working on rules to limit the retail price of COVID antigen tests, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday, after shortages were reported in many pharmacies across the country last month.

The higher price of antigen tests in Spain during the surge of the Omicron coronavirus variant and the scarcity of tests in pharmacies have raised protests from opposition politicians and consumer groups, many of whom are calling for their sale to be allowed in supermarkets.

“The debate we had before and during the Christmas season was the supply of tests, there was a bottleneck,” Sanchez said in an interview with Cadena SER radio station. “Now, we will get into the control of the tests’ prices.”

The nationwide infection rate as measured over the past 14 days rose to a new record of 2,723 cases per 100,000 people on Friday, a more than 10-fold increase since the beginning of December. Intensive care occupancy reached 22.06%, up from 8% a month ago – but still less than half the peak of 43% recorded a year ago.

It may be time to use different parameters to track the pandemic, Sanchez said, citing the decreasing lethality of COVID-19. He confirmed a report by El Pais newspaper that authorities were considering monitoring the pandemic in a similar way they follow the flu, without recording every case or testing all symptomatic people.

Spain will purchase 344,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral pill in January, Sanchez also announced on Monday.

Paxlovid, for adults who have mild to moderate infection and are at high risk of their illness worsening, is most effective when taken during the early stages of COVID-19, before any eventual hospitalisation.

Photo – Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. EPA-EFE/ZIPI

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